Rabi crop looks shaky given deficit winter rain

Agriculture Bangalore Environment

Rabi crop yields will be hugely impacted due to a deficit in the North-East monsoon. The El-Nino effect, continuing from the south-west monsoon will result in a deficit returning monsoon, officials say.

Rabi crop production in Bengaluru Urban and Rural will be affected due to the North-East monsoon this seasonal year fear farmers and government departments.

Suresh, a farmer from Gangasandra, Bengaluru said that he is going to sow rabi crops like every year but is worried about the rain. He usually sows paddy in the kharif season and corn in the rabi. This kharif season, he suffered losses due to less rainfall.

The farmer said that he  is not optimistic about the winter rainfall which can help him for the initial sowing of jowar and millets.

He added that though he has a borewell in his farm, it is not enough to water the entire farm. The paucity of electricity results in him not being able to pump water to his entire farmland. “The initial winter rainfall is  important for the corn sprouts to grow efficiently,” Suresh said.

A. Prasad, Senior Assistant Scientist, Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Bengaluru said that the south-West monsoon delivered less rainfall than normal. It stood near 83 percent, 7 percent lower than the estimation. Usually the deficit is never less than 5 percent, and a 2 percent increase is significant according to the IMD.  

“IMD’s estimation for the N.E. monsoon this year will be lower than average in Bengaluru. According to the calculation, Bengaluru would get rainfall in the range of 85 percent to 90 percent which will again be 9 percent lower than the standard rainfall in the Bengaluru region and could be one of the lowest recorded deficits in rainfall if it really happens,” Prasad said.

Shilpa K.S., Deputy Director of Agriculture (DDA), Department of Agriculture (DoA) said, “The department has received the data from IMD. We also have discussed the issue of NE rainfall deficit with the ministry. We will act according to the order of the concerned department officials. The ministry and the whole agriculture department is ready with the contingency plans if the distress situation arises.”

Shilpa explained that the contingency plan is the assistance from the Agriculture Department where farmers get the insured amount for the crops in case of less yield and failure of production.

Shilpa added that DoA is expecting that there would be maximum 10 percent shortage in the production of rabi crops this year.

According to the data given by the Deputy Director of Agriculture, in 2017-18 rabi crops had a 15 percent lower yield than the previous year i.e. 2016-17. In 2018-19 production stood at 87 percent, 6 percent lower than the estimation of sown area of 2017-18. In 2019-20 the production was 4 percent more than the last 2018-19 cropping year. In 2020-21 the yield stood around 93 percent and in the next cropping year i.e., in 2021-22, the rabi crop production was 89 percent.

Seasonal YearCrop Yield (in percentage)Reduction in yield (base as previous year, in percentage)Crop Yield estimated (in percentage)
Source : Department of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka

Rabi crops usually are   jowar, ragi, millets, maize, wheat, bengal gram, black gram, horse gram, groundnut, sunflower and safflower. In Bengaluru corn (maize) and jowar are sown mostly.

Rabi crops are sown in approximately 11,000 hectares, resulting in a production of about 26 metric tonne in the Bengaluru area every year. N.R. Shetty, President of farmers Association (Organic Farmers Association, Bengaluru) said, “Rabi crop failure is not new. In earlier years also yield was very low. Farmers are not well informed and aware enough to deal with the crop sowing technique. They need to understand the types of rabi crop that ought to be sown, given the region and soil.”

Shetty also said that the government and agriculture department should have contingency plans as well, to secure the  rabi yield. 

Mallikarjuna Swamy, Associate Professor, University of Bengaluru said, “Rabi crops are water efficient. Unlike paddy, rabi crops need initial stage of water. If crops don’t get water they may not sprout and there is huge chance of failure. The interesting fact with the rabi crop is its temperature. rabi crops only can grow when the ambient temperature lies between 10-25 degrees celsius with less humidity and not much rainfall in its maturity.”

Swamy added that the north-east monsoon brings the moisture which is required for the rabi crops to firm its root deep in the soil and helps in the nitrogen fixation of the soil. But if the rainfall doesn’t take place at standard estimation, then it decreases the growth of the rabi.

Due to the El-Nino effect Bengaluru faced a 21 percent deficit in the south-west monsoon and again because of the same weather pattern and climate conditions like uneven distribution of rainfall, climate change, and reduction of groundwater the crop yield will have further negative implications.

M.B. Rajegowda, climate change expert from Bengaluru said that rabi crops are the most resistant crops and have the ability to soak the effect of climate change which is the mismatch of rainfall in particular area, uneven temperature of day and night, air pollution, and importantly, polluted water.

“Even the groundwater has been polluted. Areas of Bengaluru have water containing heavy metals. The El-Nino weather pattern disturbs the whole cropping cycle and this time the victim will be the rabi crop,” Rajegowda said.


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